African Innovation Foundation (AIF) is a not-for-profit organization based in Zurich whose objectives cover a wide range of activities aimed at unlocking innovative potential in Africa, and which include, the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) awards. The fifth edition of the IPA awards were recently held in Botswana with total cash Awards of US$150 000 up for grabs. AIF partnered with the Government of Botswana represented by the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and the Botswana Innovation Hub to host IPA 2016 under its theme Made in Africa. H.E. President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of Botswana presided at the prestigious awards ceremony, held at the Gaborone International Conference Centre in the capital’s metropolis.

The winners of this year’s IPA awards all offered innovative healthcare solutions as ground-breaking responses to address Africa’s prevailing malaria and HIV/AIDS burdens. Out of a total of 985 applications, 10 nominees were selected, and from these Dr Valentin Agon of Benin was selected overall winner, with Imogen Wright of South Africa scooping Second Prize, and Dr Eddy Agbo of Nigeria winning the Special Prize for Social impact.

Kenya’s Amolo Ng’weno led the expert panel of judges who were impressed by the IPA winners who all demonstrated know how and expertise, boasting dynamic new inroads to address the malaria and HIV disease burdens confronting Africa. Ng’weno is quoted as saying: “The standards were very high, and it was difficult to make a decision; everyone is a winner and all of them were addressing major social issues. I congratulate the winners and look forward to the next five years of IPA”.

Dr Eddy Agbo of Nigeria together with his research team, won the IPA awards for the invention and patent of the world’s first clinically validated non-blood malaria test method, the Urine Malaria Test (UMT). According to Agbo, the UMT has the capacity to tell in about 25 minutes, if a fever is due to malaria or not, using only a few drops of urine. In a recent media interview, Agbo lauded AIF’s efforts to promote innovation in Africa saying: “Africa sorely needs institutions like the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) that promotes African innovations (…) The IPA prize is now in its fifth year, having been established in 2011 by the AIF, which itself was set up ‘to amass prosperity for Africa by unearthing, recognising and supporting Africans who are dedicated to providing the African continent with innovative breakthroughs and solutions that improve the continent’s socio-economic status.”

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the AIF signed a memorandum of understanding on May 11, 2016 outlining areas of collaboration between the two organizations in promoting innovation in Africa. WIPO and AIF organised a workshop on the margins of this year’s IPA awards event on the theme “Sub-Regional Intellectual Property Workshop for Young Innovators: From Idea to the Market Place.” The workshop is a follow up event on the African Ministerial Conference on Intellectual Property, 2015 organized in Dakar by WIPO with the support of the Japanese Patent Office under the Japanese Funds in Trust for Africa and the Least Developed countries (LDCs).